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Why Extreme Couponing Irks Me!

extreme couponingOK, I have to admit that I have seen the show “Extreme Couponing” from TLC.  I watched it at a friend’s house, who actually has cable.  Since I get my shows from an antenna and from Netflix, I don’t get many shows like this.  After watching this show once, I realized that I was OK with how I watch TV.  If you haven’t seen this show, then let me break it down for you really quickly.  People on this show are obsessed with coupons.  It doesn’t matter if they are printable or online coupon codes, they just love them.  They spend a lot of time finding coupons, doubling them, tripling them, and then paying almost nothing for the items they buy.   Now, I do think using coupons has its  place.  I use coupons when I shop online or need certain items from the grocery store.  The difference between myself and those on the show is that I don’t take my couponing to the extreme.  Here is why extreme couponing irks me.

How I Coupon

I can tell you that I am not a dedicated coupon clipper.  I don’t take a lot of time to find coupons, but when I want certain things, I will search for them.  This is especially the case online.  When I am buying stuff online, I like to search around to find a coupon or two.  It is super easy these days with so many coupon sites out there.  You can either go to google and type in “store name + coupons” or “store name + free shipping coupons.”  There are a wide range of ways to search for awesome coupons online.  It doesn’t take but a few minutes.  You can also try out sites like Coohpons or the like.  Whatever your favorite coupon site you use will work just fine.

If I am going to a store and know what I need before hand, which is most of the time, I will try to find a newspaper.  I also check the circulars that most stores put in the front.  I can usually find good coupons in there, but I don’t take a lot of time doing so.  I have better things to be doing than using my time to find coupons.

Why I Don’t Like Extreme Couponing

Don’t get me wrong about those people on “Extreme Couponing,” they do have dedication to saving money with coupons.  The issue that I have with the practice is that it isn’t very practical at all. Most of these people have spent hours upon hours learning how to coupon to the extreme.  Not only that, but they spend more time working our their coupons for their next shopping trip.  I find this to be a total waste of time.  Time even wrote an article about how extreme couponing has ruined coupons in general.  The issue is that most coupons are for products from big manufacturers.  A coupon is only good if you use the product and you planned on buying it in the first place.  If you have to stock your shelves with crap food or excess in order to use a coupon, I consider that a waste.  I am not getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.  I am just trying to buy food that I enjoy each week or products that I need to use.

I have said before that you can only cut expenses so much before you have to look at alternatives.  Do you want to know how I like to spend my time?  Making More Money!  I am an advocate of making more money on top of saving as much as you can.  When you dedicate your time to couponing to the extreme, there is only so much you can save. The number becomes finite.  There is only so much we buy.  When you dedicate your time to learning a skill that will earn you extra income, then you have infinite possibilities to earn more money.  For those people that spend six hours to coupon and shop just to save $300, I wish you would think of alternatives.

If I could dedicate six hours of my time to one task, I would make sure it would produce income for me.  There are times when I am freelancing that I earn over $100 an hour.  If I dedicated six hours to this task, then I would surpass your $300, and then doubled it.  Now, this is not all of the time, but think of the possibilities of using time to learn a skill instead of wasting it to cut coupons.  Couponers cut money they spend, but I choose to grow the money that I make.  The choice is yours.  Extreme couponing will never be done in my household.  I like to do some things in moderation.

What about you?  What do you think of couponing to the extreme?  Does it have its place?

Photo courtesy of OOingle.com

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.

63 Comments

  1. March 17, 2014 at 6:42 am — Reply

    I think its a waste of time, but I reserve the caveat that for some extreme couponing is a hobby- not just a money saving activity. For those, I don’t consider it anything different than me tuning my snowboards. Still, extreme couponing might save money but one question I would ask is: would just being frugal and limiting the amount of stuff purchased (as apposed to buying 100 cans of beans) save just as much (or more) money?

    • March 17, 2014 at 9:59 am — Reply

      I can understand it being a hobby for some. That is OK with me I guess. I think you are correct about just being frugal in the first place being a better use of time. I know I don’t need 100 cans of beans, nor do I want that much.

      • Gary Ronan
        March 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm — Reply

        You may not need A 100 cans of Bean’s but the local food shelf sure could use them and they could also use toothpaste shaving cream, toilet paper, etc.
        That’s where my excess products go and at the store I shop at they have A huge bin by the checkout area that makes it convenient for me to put my extra box of cereal in.
        In addition I can take off the donations on my income tax.
        I clip coupon’s on my lunch hour or when I watch TV so I don’t see A big waste of time there and I get the paper’s from my co-worker’s that were just going to throw them out anyway. I also take the newspaper’s home and use them as mulch in my garden. I have A large garden as I live on 6+ acre’s.

        • March 23, 2014 at 3:12 pm — Reply

          Hello Gary! Thank you for stopping by. I think what you do is commendable. The problem is that I would assume most people don’t do that. The grocery stores in my area don’t even have donation bins where you can drop off food. They do it only during select times of the year. If every extreme couponer did what you do, then it would be better.

          I freelance when I watch TV and during my lunch hour, so I am making money. Depending on the job, I could come away from lunch with an extra $100 in my pocket.

  2. March 17, 2014 at 6:57 am — Reply

    I see why people coupon but I’m with you Grayson. Six+ hours seems like a lot of time to put into this endeavor. Maybe if I had a system that reduced the amount of time it took to coupon I’d do it. I’d much rather spend that time in income producing endeavors or with the family.

    • March 17, 2014 at 9:59 am — Reply

      I don’t mind couponing. As I said, I do use coupons. The issue is when people take it to the extreme and dedicate hours to do it. I can find better uses for my time.

  3. March 17, 2014 at 7:31 am — Reply

    Sounds like you and I are pretty much the same Grayson. We rarely get a paper anymore and if we do then we might pull the coupons out of there. If we go in to the store we tend to get them, but don’t really go out of our way to do so. I do use them when we shop online as it’s generally quicker. That said, it’s generally not worth the time or effort to save just a little in my opinion.

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:00 am — Reply

      We typically are John! We don’t get the paper, but my mother in law gives us hers when she is done. Most of the time, we don’t even find coupons applicable to us.

  4. March 17, 2014 at 7:48 am — Reply

    Yeah, I’m with you on the extreme couponing vs just making more money. If you’re going to spend 40 hours a week finding the right combination of deals and coupons to get an insane amount of goods for little to nothing…why not just get a job???

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:13 am — Reply

      Haha, you are right my friend. Some will say that can be a job, but you are only working with finite savings.

  5. March 17, 2014 at 8:29 am — Reply

    I have thought about taking up more couponing, but my issue, like you mention, is that many times coupons are only applicable if you buy multiple items. I do not need four boxes of cereal in my house because the coupon was for buy three and get one free. The coupon usage only makes sense if it is part of an overall strategy to live and spend wisely, not to create a bomb shelter of food that will never be consumed.

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:14 am — Reply

      You are correct on that on Shannon. I don’t need, nor do I have the space required to stockpile food items. The biggest issue is that most of the food that we eat doesn’t not come with coupons.

  6. March 17, 2014 at 8:45 am — Reply

    I’d rather focus on making more money than extreme couponing. Some of those people just spend way too much time, and that just seems really boring to me. Maybe they have a blast doing it?

  7. March 17, 2014 at 8:45 am — Reply

    I don’t necessarily mind extreme couponing, but I hate those huge stockpiles of stuff. Maybe I’m just OCD but I would go crazy if I had a hundred bottles of shampoo. I hate clutter!

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:15 am — Reply

      The stockpiles of crap is what gets me as well. Why do you need 50 jars of spaghetti sauce?

  8. March 17, 2014 at 9:09 am — Reply

    If I was a stay at home wife with not much time and a large pantry, I may do this. But I cannot give more of my time to coupons more than just the occasional glance for a deal. Plus, most Chicago stores do not do double coupons, so it’s so hard to do it here in the city!

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:15 am — Reply

      I still wouldn’t do it with a large pantry. I can’t be a stay at home wife, but I could be a husband. I would still focus my time on making money, not spending it.

  9. March 17, 2014 at 10:36 am — Reply

    I don’t coupon for food, but always google coupons before I check out an online purchase. Worst case scenario you lose 2 minutes, best case you get $10 off which is a good hourly rate. To save $0.3 on products I don’t see the point, especially since you can save more if you cook from scratch and there are no coupons on veggies.

    • March 17, 2014 at 10:39 am — Reply

      I am with you there Pauline. I always check for coupons for online purchases. I don’t find coupons for fresh fruits and veggies where I live and that is what I eat for the most part.

  10. March 17, 2014 at 11:15 am — Reply

    I coupon on occasion and have considered doing it more but many of the coupons are for stuff I really don’t eat. I always do a quick search online too whenever I’m making an online purchase as it usually pays off.

    • March 17, 2014 at 11:25 am — Reply

      That is the issue that I find. Most of the coupons are from big manufacturers and for items that I just don’t eat. We don’t eat a lot of processed foods and that is what most coupons are for. Yes, you can take time to find different ones, but a good majority are for items we just don’t use.

  11. Katrina
    March 17, 2014 at 11:33 am — Reply

    I agree with extreme couponing going too far with some people….I do use coupons though all the time I take about 5 minutes a day to check the coupon sites for new coupons and order only the ones I will use, I will then spend maybe an hour before going shopping to look through flyers for sales and if I can get some stuff free with the coupons I have then awesome. I only stockpile laundry detergent and toilet paper but my piles aren’t huge. I have saved a lot of money the last 3 years. In moderation couponing can be very helpful, as a single mom of two that is bound my house when the kids go to bed I love coupons! I do also have my own freelance work I do outside of my job but saving as much as I can with coupons has allowed me to save even more of my ‘extra’ money

    • March 17, 2014 at 11:37 am — Reply

      Hello Katrina! I do think couponing has its place. There is nothing wrong with spending some time finding coupons. I don’t think you are extreme by any means. It is good to save money with coupons, but taking too much time to cut coupons just to save on specific products is unproductive in my opinion. You should always focus on saving money and making money. Doing both is good, but focusing on just saving money is only going to result in finite results.

      • Katrina
        March 17, 2014 at 11:40 am — Reply

        I completely agree if the rest of your life is being affected by the amount of time you spend on couponing its not worth it

    • Katrina
      March 17, 2014 at 11:38 am — Reply

      There are alot of crap-food coupons out there and I avoid them. I do get fruit and veggie coupons occasionally but I do always check flyers to see if I can price match, I haven’t paid for toothpaste or toothbrushes for a long time I also haven’t paid more than $2 for a jug of laundry detergent

      • March 17, 2014 at 11:52 am — Reply

        I wish I could find coupons for fruits and veggies. You just don’t see them here.

  12. March 17, 2014 at 11:51 am — Reply

    It’s always a trade-off. The only thing that bothers me about it is how they value their savings. Yes, kitty litter may have been $10 before and you got it for $0.25, but if you don’t have a cat, then what’s the point? Same goes for the folks who over-value the airline miles they get when doing bonuses.

    • March 17, 2014 at 11:53 am — Reply

      Great point. If you don’t need the item, but have a coupon for it, then you aren’t saving any money. Are you going to eat all of the food you buy on coupons or will some go to waste?

  13. March 17, 2014 at 11:59 am — Reply

    Extreme couponing always seems nuts to me. Don’t get me wrong, I like coupons… but the effort that goes into it. Sheesh, I just don’t understand. I’ve got my weekly grocery list and I usually give it a quick Google before I head out. If a coupon I can print out for an item already on it pops up, done. If not, oh well.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm — Reply

      I am completely with you Mel! I like coupons, but I am not going to spend a ton of time to find them just to save money on many products that I don’t even use. If it works for items I normally buy and only takes a minute or two, then I am in!

  14. March 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm — Reply

    More often than not, coupons I see are for items I have no interest in buying. Also, I don’t have the time to spend going through all the coupons to save 25 cents. But I’m saying there is no value to couponing…I actually like a good coupon. If I buy something online or going to a store, I’ll always look for a coupon. At target, they give out coupons with your receipt…I’ll keep the coupons for items I generally buy. And if I see a coupon somewhere for a place I go to or a product I use…yea I’ll clip it out.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm — Reply

      Great point about Target. We use those coupons often when they are for items we need. Since we have a Redcard, we typically get targeted coupons. I am also not going to waste time to save $0.25. There are more important things in life.

  15. March 17, 2014 at 12:26 pm — Reply

    I use coupons fairly often and do save a descent amount on household items. I would rather spend the money on going out and having fun or paying off debt. I agree with you Grayson, no need to spend hours to save money. I would rather focus on making money!

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm — Reply

      Making money is more fun than spending money. That is how I look at things!

  16. March 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm — Reply

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched shows and friends’ or family’s homes and felt so grateful that I don’t pay for cable. Most of the reality TV like Extreme Couponing irritates me to no end — how dumb is this concept? Why are these people famous? I am not a big couponer — I search for coupon codes online and I use a coupon app to save on retail purchases, but otherwise I just stick to my list and compare unit prices on grocery items. I agree — time is better spent earning income than trying to “beat the system.”

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm — Reply

      Ah yes, the quality list and comparing prices. I am going to assume that most couponers don’t compare prices because they have a coupon. I just will look briefly and then move on with doing more productive things.

  17. March 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    One thing I’ve seen with extreme couponing is that there are some people who will go out and buy a ton of stuff they don’t need and then re-sell it at face value. I don’t know if it’s legal, but it certainly sounds unethical to me.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm — Reply

      I have seen that as well. That is a legal activity and is called reselling. I will say that most resellers have to be licensed and collect sales tax if your state has a sales tax. I am sure most of these people don’t do that, so then it could be illegal for them to be doing so.

  18. March 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm — Reply

    I agree – I’m not a huge fan of extreme couponing. It makes sense to look at the grocery flyer to see what’s on sale and use any coupons that benefit for you, but the savings is not enough for me to spend 6 hours looking for deals. Like you, I feel that I could make more money in that time doing other things. And from many of the coupons I see, you have to buy larger quantities, which doesn’t always make sense and I try to limit the amount of processed food we eat too.

    • March 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm — Reply

      Thanks for the comment Shannon! I will take a few minutes to check coupons at the grocery store, but that is about it. I don’t want to overstock items or buy crap.

  19. March 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    That show is just absurd. Despite all my frugality, I’m not a big time couponer either. I’ll do a quick check when I know I’m already going to buy something, but otherwise, I feel like coupons get people to spend on things they didn’t even know they “needed” before they saw the discount.

    • March 17, 2014 at 2:11 pm — Reply

      You are right on there Stefanie. It is called spaving. You spend in order to save.

  20. March 17, 2014 at 9:00 pm — Reply

    I noticed on a couple of episodes that people actually order newspapers to get the inserts. I guess (they don’t say so) that they have to pay something for those papers and this would offset some of the savings. They also seem to buy tons of junk food. I understand the cleaners and paper products are handy but the junk food? I will grab a coupon if it is something I am going to buy anyway but don’t invest much effort otherwise.

    • March 17, 2014 at 9:20 pm — Reply

      I would also assume that they have to pay for the paper. That would cut into savings. I see the crap/junk food as well. What is the purpose of saving money on crap?

  21. March 17, 2014 at 9:56 pm — Reply

    I don’t have the patience for it at all. I will look online for codes to enter if I’m shopping that way, otherwise I browse the coupons from the Sunday paper when I visit my grandma. I only clip the coupons I know I will use. I would never buy something simply because I have a coupon for it. Totally agree that’s a waste! I also love getting the Catalina coupons from grocery stores, since they’re usually relevant to what I buy. Makes it easy!

    • March 18, 2014 at 9:30 am — Reply

      I am with you there. No patience! Relevant coupons are where it is at.

  22. March 18, 2014 at 1:04 am — Reply

    I’m with you, Grayson, I spend a little time looking for coupons for things that are on my shopping list, or for coupon codes before I checkout online. I just can’t see putting in the amount of time that extreme couponers do. I wouldn’t say that extreme couponers bother me, unless I get in the checkout line behind one.

    • March 18, 2014 at 9:34 am — Reply

      Haha, getting behind them in line is a little painful. The organized ones don’t bother me as much, but I feel they could spend their time doing more fruitful things. I will also suggest earning more as your options are limitless.

  23. March 18, 2014 at 7:34 am — Reply

    I’m surprised you have such strong feelings towards extreme couponing. While I’m in the ‘make more money’ camp, sometimes it’s just more realistic for someone to spend their time couponing to save money on things that they already know they will have to buy for their family. Plus, if you really are saving a thousand dollars a month on couponing like some of the extreme couponers do, I can’t fault them.

    • March 18, 2014 at 9:33 am — Reply

      If you are using coupons for items that you are already buying for you family, then go right ahead. The issue I have seen with most “extreme” couponers is that they buy stuff just to get the deal because that is how they get the deal. Yes, you can save $1000 a month by couponing, but how long does it take you to do that? If you spend most of your time couponing, maybe because you are a stay at home parent, then you have a finite savings ability. You can only save $12,000 a year. Let’s say that you take half of the time and work on earning income, then cut your couponing down. Now, you only save $500 a month, or $6,000 a year, but now you are earning income. You income has the ability to grow, your savings have a ceiling that you can’t breach unless you start spending more.

  24. March 18, 2014 at 11:12 am — Reply

    The few times I’ve watched that show (and I think it is on Netflix if you didn’t get enough), it seems to be mostly moms who stay at home and maybe need something to do? I love a good coupon, and if it get’s me something free, that’s even better, but I can’t imagine devoting 40 hours a week to that, even if I did stay at home every day. Now as far as travel hacking, I have probably spent way too much time studying the ropes about how to get free travel, but that directly benefits our family. I’m not trying to hoard airline miles for an airline that I’ll never fly just because I can.

    • March 18, 2014 at 11:29 am — Reply

      Oh no! I will make sure to block that show on Netflix. That would ruin my day! Devoting so much time just for working toward a finite goal is not for me. I want to do something that gives me the ability to grow.

  25. March 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm — Reply

    Right on. I mean, if you’ve got enough Tide detergent to last 8 years, I think you can take a break and focus all of your time and energy on generating additonal income or wealth. The people that do this obviously have a great system worked out, and I wonder what they would be able to do if they applied their skills to different endeavors. If you spend 30 hours a week couponing/shopping/ sorting/ etc, and are able to save $300, that’s awesome, but couldn’t you find a job that would result in a net gain? I don’t get it. plus about 15 minutes of going through weekly coupons is my limit.

    • March 18, 2014 at 8:15 pm — Reply

      I am with you there Ryan. Your comment speaks it all to me. If you have that much dedication toward saving, why not focus that same energy on income creation?

  26. March 18, 2014 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    I used to think those people were wasting their time, but then I realized that they enjoy couponing. It’s like a hobby, rather than a straight-out exercise in spending less. There are many other more expensive (and similarly time consuming) hobbies out there.

    • March 18, 2014 at 9:39 pm — Reply

      I don’t have any issue with it being a hobby, but hobbies don’t take up a majority of your time. They are then classified as jobs. People that “extreme” coupon take a lot of time doing so. There is a fine line between being an excessive hobby and just a low paying job.

  27. March 19, 2014 at 2:45 am — Reply

    Time is money, and if you are buying something you wouldn’t otherwise buy then its not really saving at all. I think it makes more sense for me to just check for coupons on the bigger items I know I will be buying. I would lean towards just working to make more money, but I respect those that find it to be a nice hobby or those that have perfected max savings with minimum time drain.

    • March 19, 2014 at 9:37 am — Reply

      Time certainly is money! I don’t have any issues with using coupons, but I can find a number of things to do with my time that is both more productive and more lucrative.

  28. March 19, 2014 at 11:18 pm — Reply

    I find the show fascinating. I really do. It’s completely bizarre haha. However, the LAST thing I need in my house are 37 boxes of oreos. It seems like a lot of the stuff is unhealthy and that they do it just for the thrill of the hunt.

    • March 20, 2014 at 11:09 am — Reply

      Most of the food is crap. It is really on the big manufacturers that provide those type of coupons. Most big manufacturers also make the most processed foods.

  29. March 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm — Reply

    Interesting thoughts. I agree to you to a certain extent.

    When ever a deal is too good to pass up (free) if I do get things that are extreme if it isn’t something my household can finish in a 1-3 month period I don’t do it OR if it is free I will extreme coupon and take it all directly to a food shelter or charity. I do agree it is dumb to have a shelf with hundreds of products you will never get to use. I also never pass up things like toothbrushes and paste or deodorant or basic necessities either because I put together bags with those necessities and keep them in my car for when I pass someone who is homeless.

    I totally get where you are coming from though! When it comes to my shopping on a weekly basis I just make my grocery list and check my coupons for if there are any on what I already have on my list!

    • March 21, 2014 at 9:07 am — Reply

      I only see the need for “extreme” to be with products that you can keep for a long period of time. Since we don’t eat processed foods, we don’t buy them. I don’t know why anyone would buy that much of the same item anyway.

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